Hour 30

Hello again! Hour 30 was so much fun, I think it deserves its own post. Hour 29 was a simple practice ride with Tia.

for Hour 30, I had an exciting lesson with Thasia in the outdoor arena, jumps included! Because of the cold, dark evenings, and rain, I haven’t had a lesson in the outdoor arena since…October??

IMG_2813                                                                                      and I haven’t gotten to jump a whole course since then either.

Today the temperature was perfect, the sky was blue, the outdoor arena was sort-of-not-muddy and I was feeling great.

After a flatwork warmup, we practiced jumping a simple line of cross rails down the diagonal line and a red plank jump.

Including this orange jump that matches me perfectly! Haha!                                            don’t know what’s going on with our leads here..IMG_8361.PNG

anyway. The jumps involved Thasia rushing a little bit, so afterwards Bethany had an idea for an exercise that would make it hard for her to rush, and get me in check.

I am sure some riders are familiar with this: we did a figure-8 over a blue plank jump. IMG_8385.jpgExcept this figure 8 was very tight. Every time we came over the jump we had to make a very tight turn. The left turn was pretty much good,IMG_8387the hardest turn was the one to the right.IMG_8386.PNGthe first time wasn’t very good: There is a purple jump standard just in front of me in this picture, and I had to turn before it. I almost ran into it.

The second time was a little better, but not by much.IMG_8389.jpg

The third time, I actually discovered that in order to not run into the purple standard, I had to do the jump at an angle.IMG_8390.jpgIMG_8391.jpgthat worked out better for both of us, and the turn was a lot smoother. This is a cool exercise to try if you/your horse have rushing problems and need to tune to each other better. It’s amazing what a figure 8 can do..

After the figure 8 I took a break,IMG_8357.jpg

and then we moved on to jumping a full-on course!

I started with the diagonal line I did in the beginning of the lesson: the red crossrail to the orange one that matched my outfit.IMG_8392.jpg

then I came around and did a blue cross rail, and then a bending line to a pink one.IMG_8394.jpgthen I turned abruptly inward and rode to the blue plank again.

The first time around Thasia tricked me so darn well that I didn’t know until Bethany told me. I had forgotten to turn towards the pink jump on the bending line, and Thasia took care of the rest. I had also gotten some leads wrong and rushed the turn towards the plank.

The second time around, even though the turn towards the blue cross rail was awful, I did the whole bending line and got all my leads right.IMG_8393.PNG

Not only was this lesson exciting, but it marks improvement in my riding. Before, it was all about “hold on, and your horse will take care of the jump.” now I have to assume an active role in the jump as well as the pace. I need to be sharp and ready to guide Thasia, but at the same time I need to listen to her and not clamp down on her mouth. That is when things start to go awry. It also was a huge confidence boost.

it feels good to know that I actually jump actively and that I have made significant improvement in the past 6 months as a rider. My first show of the season is in April with Thasia, and I am feeling better and better about it. Good things coming!

visiting Indy. She had her first adjustment done by the vet a couple days ago. I am curious so feel her under saddle.IMG_8363.jpgsweet girl..


Hours 20 & 21: a Thrill, and a Spill

The past two hours have been VERY eventful, both in a good way and a bad way. Probably my two most eventful hours yet. Long story short, they were both with Indy. One ride involves our first verticals, …and the next involves our first bucking session, that, spoiler, ends with me on the ground.

Hour 20 (Friday, Jan. 11th)IMG_8010.jpg

Today, I had an amazing lesson with Indy: we jumped verticals together for the first time! (it makes me smile to look at her tucking her feet all nice like a hunter! Squee!)

The majority of the lesson was spent with a whole lot of kicking. We are trying to teach her to respect my leg through anything that we do, and we are making some progress…except that part of the reason we were doing that was because I let her get away with being slow over my two weeks of free rides with her.

eventually, we moved on to a line of poles. img_8013

which, before I could blink, turned into a small vertical.IMG_8012.jpg

and, believe it or not, we did it! a few good times too.IMG_8009.jpgThis is where Indy says “oof”.

The aim of the lesson was to get Indy to respect my leg and be more careful about where she puts her feet, and I think we made some headway on accomplishing just that. Today’s lesson was definitely a big adrenaline rush, but it means we are slowly turning a corner and that’s exciting! See you at the next hour!

Hour 21 (Saturday, Jan 12th)

I’m not going to lie. Hour 21 went fairly well, and then it plunged. Like, literally.

I fell off Indy for the the first time.

I don’t have any pictures, because it was a free ride and my mom wasn’t watching when it happened. What we were basically doing was repeating a smaller-scale version of what we did in Hour 20. Just kicking repeatedly, telling her that we mean business. The only difference was that she was more distracted. A gelding was in the arena and a friend was finishing her lesson with Indy’s pasture-mate and arch-rival, Tia. Other than that and the fact that I had to kick, all was well.

Where it started to go downward was when we went back to the line of poles that we did during our lesson. No jumps, just poles. Believe it or not, it took me several infuriating tries just to get Indy over the poles at the trot. I was starting to get mad. After we managed to do it a couple times, I decided to do it the other direction, and then be done. Going the other direction is logical, just to turn things around and make sure you and your horse are good with the exercise at every angle.

Of course, going over the poles in the other direction involves going into “the corner.” It doesn’t bother me, but for whatever reason, she just doesn’t like that corner. In the last post where i talked about feeling a little baby hop that terrified me, it took place in that corner. But what was about to happen was more than a little baby hop.

It was hailing lightly outside, I was a little bit angry with how stubborn she was, and I had to keep kicking. We entered the corner after circling a few times. I didn’t even get her to go over the poles once before she absolutely lost it and bursted into a canter.

I was probably on Indy for over thirty seconds of frantic cantering, hopping and bucking in big bursts. Just when it seemed she was going to quiet down, she bursted out again. Even though I was screaming whoa at the top of my lungs and crying like an idiot, I used all the things I have learned. I sat back in the seat. I jerked the reins. The closest I got to stopping her was when I remembered to do a one-rein stop. I grabbed the left rein with my right hand and cranked my left hand as close to the bit as possible, and then I jerked the rein as close to my hip as possible, and Indy began to circle. it’s what to do to slow down a bolting horse. Sadly for me, the rein just wasn’t short enough and Indy burst out of the tight circle.

Then I lost my stirrup on the right side. I knew I was on my way out, and I stayed on for five or so more seconds before falling into the very depth of the corner. Of course I was crying like an idiot, but I knew that I was not hurt and I was grateful. Indy slowed down immediately and stood still before Bethany grabbed her and got right on. Terrified, I watched as Bethany taught Indy a lesson. Indy repeatedly tripped over her own feet in the chaos and it looked as if she would fall, bringing Bethany with her. But Bethany knew what she was doing, and eventually she brought Indy to a relaxed trot and a flowing, perfect canter in the same corner where she dumped me. Trembling, I got back on Indy and trotted for half the arena. Then I got off and put her away without another word.


Now it is Sunday and I am at home cleaning my saddle and bridle. It’s relaxing and satisfying and it allows me to think a little bit about yesterday’s ride. It might be hard to believe, but despite the obvious flaw, the ride wasn’t total crap. When put into the situation, I did all I could and everyone was beyond proud and supportive of my efforts, even though they didn’t turn in my favor. In fact, we even laugh about it a little. I crack up thinking about my dirt angel in the corner near the jump standards where no horse walks.

I’ll also point out that of all the time I have been riding and learning at Feather Run Farm, that was the first time I ever fell off in that arena, where I have ridden hundreds of times. The first time that I get off a horse that isn’t standing still and about to fall asleep. It’s my seventh fall.

Indy, of course, is still Indy. Our next ride won’t be fun, that’s for sure. I haven’t ridden since. But sometimes a fall can teach you so much, and it’s all part of the way it works with a horse like Indy. Working through and embracing everything Indy has to offer has shaped my riding more than any other horse has, and it’s been an exciting journey. She’s a forgiving horse, and will be ready whenever I get on next.


in the end, I still love my baby girl, and we’ve got more things to do! See you then!IMG_4838

Hour 1


I had a lesson with Indy today. Indy is a green thoroughbred mare that’s six years old. Since she has been at our barn for the majority of her life, even before we bought her, she has had the advantage of having correct training by both myself and my instructor, and she’s progressing nicely! She’ll get her own post later, since she’s such a good girl!

Most of the lesson was trot work, that being where she’s at right now. I concentrated on keeping her busy but not doing too much with my hands. We are working on building

her topline, improving her balance and movement, and getting her to stretch into a nice frame while giving in to my contact. I struggled a little bit at the beginning, trying to get myself into focus and prevent her from wiggling, but I was able to get a hold eventually. I had just bought my new saddle from my trainer and it fits Indy so much better than my other one, so that was extremely useful in helping to keep good balance.

After trotwork we moved to a set of three poles between standards at the trot. My instructor, Bethany, and I were pleased with how confident she was. Again, for any other horse trot poles are normal and easy, the same for me (I jump bigger things a lot), but for Indy obstacles are still fairly foreign. Next, we moved to a small cross rail. I had never actually jumped her into a canter (I have only trotted her over a cross rail in the past), but I have seen Bethany do cross rails and even a flower box with her, so I was confident that she could do it. The first time she simply trotted over, but the next two or three times she cantered on the other side. The last time i did it, she actually popped over it, coming out in a proud canter on the other side. As with the poles, We were pleased with her confidence (especially since I don’t have much experience jumping her). It turns out to be yet another reason to love my little girl: she’s not nervous, she’s bold and will do anything you ask her if you have enough confidence. What a good start for my first hour!

A Bit More About Me

Hello again! Before I start documenting the rides I have gotten over the past few days, I think it would be wise to give you all a little background on where I have been up to this point. So here we go!

I started riding about five years ago, but really I have been into horses my whole life. My first horse was a hobby horse named Cocoa.

Feb 2007 011

my grandmother used to have miniature horses that I loved so much as a tiny tot. Their names were Marble, Feather and Sugar.100_2035

In fact, I loved the minis so much that I had them come to my front yard for my fourth birthday party. That’s when I had my first fall: Breaking my arm because the girth wasn’t fastened when I got on (And that kids is why you always fasten your girth). We’ll come back to that later.

A few good years later, I went for my first real ride with my mom’s old friend and a humble bay mare named Annie.annie5yearanniversary.JPG

I remember my grandmother cheering when I got into the saddle. It was going through my mind that when I sat in the saddle, that I was an official equestrian and I had just transitioned from wannabe to rider.

After that day I didn’t get to ride for a long, long while, but I was convinced that I was now a part of the horse world. I was horse-obsessed more than ever.

I actually started taking lessons when I was in sixth grade at Feather Run Farm. The first horse I ever rode there was Thasia. Mama took me there because she decided to take a drive one day and she drove past my future home away from home. She had heard about it from a saddle fitter who lived down the street from our house in the suburbs.IMG_6491.jpg

I believe this photo is from my first lesson. My trainer to this day, Bethany, is holding on to Thasia for me. The funny thing is that the saddle i’m in is the saddle I actually use to teach my six year old brother…

I progressed and rode at Feather Run Farm for about a year. I even got my brother into it. IMG_6591.JPGTia, a Pintabian, and my brother, Robert (there are two bros). Becky is helping him pick Tia’s foot. I made so many memories when I was there that first year. Only one thing was wrong: I lacked confidence and never cantered once when I was there.

After a full year, Feather Run Farm moved. I was devastated.

Luckily, my friend Elizabeth hooked me right up with her instructor, Erika. I started by riding a little Welsh mountain pony called Maggie. IMG_8503.JPGElizabeth is on her bay mare, Ice, in this picture.

At this point I had little to no confidence, even though no fall had happened to me since that fourth birthday party. I guess I was just naturally that way. I hated being scared and it only got worse.

I had always wanted to compete in a horse show my entire life. I was riding a bay Dutch Warmblood named Callie at the time, and I was very excited to try a walk/trot flat class. But I was also dreadfully nervous. On my first show day, I was so nervous I wanted to cry. I got squeezed in between a pony, a jump and the rail, a truck drove down the road, Callie started cantering, and I fell off. At my first horse show. IMG_9365.JPG(You can tell by my face.) This is before it happened.

Of course, that only made things worse. I dreaded every lesson, and when I trotted the only thing that would go through my brain was “Don’t fall off, Don’t fall off.” Even trotting was a scary, scary thing for me. I even almost cried when I rode Maggie down a hill at a walk. I was a hot mess.

And yet, I stayed with it. That’s what amazes me. I could have quit at any time, but in my mind that was not an option. I made it through a couple more shows with Callie, a schooling show and a show at Clemson. I had just bought a new show coat and was very proud of it. But I was so nervous during one of my trot-pole rounds, I quit it. I was always overcome in a fit of jealousy for my fellow students who won literally everything.IMG_0323.JPGeverything’s cool here, except for my face. I can tell the judges are super thrilled.

After Callie, there was a disagreement between my instructor and the owner of the barn, so she agreed to move to Elizabeth’s house, where I began riding her appaloosa, Jeffrey. I was still a nervous wreck, except I was cantering and jumping. Of course, I didn’t want to do that, and I still dreaded lessons, but I did it anyway.IMG_1276.jpg

The shows that I did with Jeffrey were good. In fact, I ended up raking in the ribbons. I guess the schooling show judges liked his cute spotty booty.img_1490The only problem was that even after a couple years of riding, my nerves limited me to the walk-trot class, competing and often losing to kids that were more than five years younger than me. I always let my age get to me. I hated that I was competing in a class with five year olds but didn’t have enough courage to move up. I was still a nervous wreck in general.IMG_2775.JPGhe’s so adowwable though.

The worst lesson of my entire life took place in Elizabeth’s small arena, doing a crossrail at a canter that was situated on the short side. I mistaked the turn. I ended up falling off three times. Surprisingly, I was left unhurt, although I got sick afterwards. As we pulled out, there was still sand in my mouth and even my voice had been knocked out of whack.

one day, my mother told me that she heard through Facebook that Feather Run Farm was coming back. I was surprised beyond belief, but I never thought I would be going back.

I was in eighth grade at the time. When they turned us out to the track at school, I sat alone on the bleachers (like I usually did), tore out a spare piece of sketchbook paper and wrote a long, heartfelt letter to Bethany and Becky. I sent her pictures of me riding Jeffrey. I sent it, and I waited. Eventually, mama reached out to them through social media, and I went to go visit.IMG_3654.JPG                     Here I am on Thasia, in the same arena, three years later.

The rest of the story is simple. I have been back at Feather Run Farm for over a year, and my confidence went from complete and total rock-bottom to the best it has ever been. I am riding and owning a green thoroughbred with ease, and jumping verticals…for fun! I know it sounds super easy for most riders, but personally I am very, very happy with where I am at. I will start going over fences next show season, and I will do it proudly and calmly. I have even been completely calm at recent shows, even after taking a spill with Finn. Nerves do not exist anymore, even when I am learning something new.

IMG_2813a ride that I had a couple weeks ago

That’s why I am taking the next step. I am watching myself progress by cataloging my rides. I know that i’m ready to tackle something new and exciting. It’s been, well, a ride, but I would not have missed a single minute! I’m ready to share my riding adventures of the past and future to anyone who wants to listen. I am ready to get started!